UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

The check-ups will be held at “secured, closed gates” by airport medical teams and the Dubai Health Authority. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 January 2020

UAE airports screen passengers from China amid coronavirus outbreak

  • Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun for people on direct flight from China
  • The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000

DUBAI: Major airports in the UAE started screening passengers arriving from China over the weekend, as countries continued to step up precautions against the spread of the viral outbreak.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports confirmed thermal screening had begun following directives from the UAE’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Health.

“All passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival and be provided with informational leaflets,” the Dubai Airports said in a statement.

The check-ups will be held at “secured, closed gates” by airport medical teams and the Dubai Health Authority, according to Dubai Airports, assuring it “will continue to provide medical teams with any and all support that may be required.”

The Abu Dhabi International Airport also released a six-point list of “preventive tips” for people travelling to China.

UAE officials earlier confirmed there were no cases of coronavirus in the country, adding it was “in constant touch with the World Health Organization (WHO) to find out latest updates, recommendations and procedures taken in this matter.”

“The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” said the National Committee for International Health Regulations and the Control of Pandemics in a statement.

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 56 on Sunday morning, with the number of infected people also rising to almost 2000, according to Chinese authorities.

The contagion remained centered on the Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan, but more than a dozen other cities in the province have been locked down in fears of further spreading.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.


In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

Updated 25 September 2020

In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

  • $30,000 Is being demanded by players for a single season

DAMASCUS: Professional football clubs in war-battered Syria are struggling to sign new players, who are demanding raises to counter the decline in the value of their pay packets. 

Nine years into a grinding civil war, Syria’s economy is in tatters, life is increasingly expensive, and the national currency is in freefall on the black market. 

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded economic woes, with footballers forced to play in closed-door stadiums, wiping out turnstile revenues. 

“Professional football has become a curse,” said Eyad Al-Sibaei, president of Homs city’s Wathba club, runners-up in the Syrian league last season. 

“Players who once played with us for reasonable amounts are now demanding astronomical sums. They say it’s because of the devaluation” of the Syrian currency. 

The Syrian league, which has no foreign stars, was suspended for just one month for Covid-19, and it did not stop during the war except at the outset in 2011. 

Players were transferred last year for as little as 35 million Syrian pounds ($17,500 at the current black market rate), but Sibaei said players are now demanding salaries of up to 60 million pounds ($30,000) for a single season. 

“Next season, we’ll need between 400 and 500 million pounds for contracts and other expenses, knowing that the club only has around 160 million in its kitty,” he said. 

He said the club spent around 315 million last year, some of which he had to advance from his own pocket. 

Whereas the average Syrian earns between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds ($25-50) a month, an average professional football player brings home around 1.5 million pounds ($750) on a monthly basis. 

Osama Omri, a player with the Al-Wahda club which finished fifth last season, conceded football players were better off than the average Syrian. 

“The salaries are decent and the purchasing power of some players is good,” said the 28-year-old attacking midfielder with the Damascus club. 

“But it’s not enough to secure their future as a player’s lifespan on the field is short,” he said, as most players retire in their early thirties. 

No foreign player has been recruited since 2012, but today’s record devaluation is making even acquiring Syrian talent tough. 

The pound’s value against the US dollar has plummeted in the past year, from around 430 to 1,250 at the official rate, and from around 600 to 2,000 on the black market. 

The clubs Jaish and Shorta (army and police in English) are funded by the defense and interior ministries, respectively. 

But other clubs say the dual economic-coronavirus crisis has depleted their coffers, and are seeking funds elsewhere to recruit before the new season starts in a month. 

Reigning champions Tishreen, based in the coastal city of Latakia, have signed two new players with funds from sponsors and club board members. 

Ward Al-Salama, 26, who last year scored in Syria’s 1-0 win against the Philippines in World Cup 2022 qualifiers, is moving from Jaish for 50 million pounds ($25,000). 

Kamel Kawaya, 22, signed for Tishreen from Shorta for the same figure. 

Al-Wahda has renewed contracts with all its players, and even made three new signings. 

Its president Maher Al-Sayyed said he had pitched in to help cover some of next year’s ballooning budget. 

“I lent the club 180 million pounds while waiting for conditions to improve,” out of a projected budget of more than 600 million pounds, he said. 

In the northern city of Aleppo, Al-Ittihad are looking at a budget of 500 million pounds — more than twice last year’s. 

Basil Hamwi said they would be counting on fans and expatriates to help make it through the season. 

At Hutteen, another top-flight club from Latakia, coach Hussein Afash said he understood players’ demands. 

“The players are right to be asking for better-paid contracts after the devaluation of the pound as they’re now earning a fourth of what they did,” he said. 

Club president Khaled Tawil said he hoped that wealthy business tycoon Samer Foz would help cover costs. 

“We are counting on Foz, who sponsors our team,” he said.

Related